Country – Israel
A significant landmark in educational history was set recently, when the CHE - Council of Higher Education in Israel, decided that a revolution in the studies of nutrition science must commence.
In Israel, the nutrition profession is currently learned in three main academic institutions: The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Tel Hai Academic College and Ariel University Center.
Students who graduate, receive a BSc in Nutrition Sciences after 3 academic years. Following the academic period, nutrition students must complete a training period of 6 months (750 hours) in general hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and community health programs. After the completion of the training period, the student must pass a national written examination administered by the ministry of health.
Until 8 years ago, there was only one nutrition school in Israel (the Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem), and it was the only academic institution which granted a degree in nutrition. The school was responsible for the professional training of dietitians, nationally. During this period, there was a waiting time of maximum one year in order to start professional training.
The joining of the Tel Hai Academic College - and in recent years - Ariel University Center, created an enormous increase in the number of students requiring professional training, but absolutely no changes in recruiting nutritional trainers. The main outcome was a waiting list of 2-3 years on average for professional training, for hundreds of students.
For historical and legal reasons, the professional training in nutrition, as opposed to other medical allied professions training programs in Israel (e.g., physical therapy), has seized to be the responsibility of the schools and was forwarded to the ministry of health, up to this day.
A special committee was founded in November 2011 to seek solutions to the problem. The committee wrote a report about health professions training in Israel (Fainaru Commission Report), and recommended, unanimously, freezing any process of approval or opening of new nutritional programs/schools until 2015. They also recommended setting up another committee on nutrition studies to re-evaluate the academic and training structure. Despite the above conclusions, the CHE chose to delay their decision.
As a consequence, the student organizations from the 3 schools set together a goal to address this issue and to make the information public, especially for other people contemplating to study nutrition. The students knew they had to take the initiative and take care of themselves and peers to bring about a change. This battle of rights to practice nutrition in a reasonable amount of time included publishing articles in the media and collecting money from all students in all institutions - to hire a battery of attorneys. This step had a significant impact on the Ministry of Health - the CEO, Prof. Roni Gamzu, who expressed total support in the students’ battle, claiming that his office is unable to solve the "waiting list" situation, and gave his recommendation to change the course of history again, and return the organization of nutritional training back to the institutions - i.e., CHE.
Another stepping stone towards the change was the recommendations of the International Evaluation Committee, chaired by Professor Alice Lichtenstein from Tufts University, MA, USA. The committee examined the nutritional sciences studies in the three schools. A comprehensive report was issued following their visit. The committee conducted interviews with the students, alumni and the faculty. The committee was able to analyze, question, and summarize our situation and in particular, our professional training. They noted the paradoxical situation in which high-quality students do not receive professional training they deserve. This report had a marked impact on the CHE resolution to make a profound change in nutritional studies in Israel.
In July 2012, the students (Main representative: Anna Fishman; Assaf Buch) along with a representative of the Israeli Dietitian Association - ATID (Dana Weiner), wrote the first draft for a model which compares the curriculum of dietitians to other medical allied professions and presented a comprehensive plan for a 4 year curriculum and the training program as part of it.
On 1/1/13 a massive group of nutrition students from all the institutions demonstrated outside the offices of the CHE. The demonstration was deliberately arranged for this day, as the topic discussed was the report of the International Committee and their recommendations. This had clearly pushed the CHE to adopt their conclusions. On that same day CHE declared its adoption of the committee report.
This a brief outline of a prolonged struggle, but full of faith. This struggle knew ups and downs, but we were guided by one principle - OUR RIGHT TO PRACTICE NUTRITION.
We thank the members of the International Evaluation Committee, the CHE members and all the concerned and involved parties. Even though we are headed for a major and dramatic change, we hope that the institutions will carry out the necessary adjustments as soon as possible. And in an analogy to the world of nutrition and lifestyle - changing habits is certainly not easy, but possible with a creative and open mind.
Dana Weiner, Dietitian, BSc in medical sciences, IDA-ATID board member and Deputy Director of the clinical nutrition department-RAMBAM medical center, Haifa, Israel